Weekly Geeks: Organization & Inspiration

This week’s Weekly Geek is “Tools Of The Trade”:

Book blogging, as a concept, is essentially pretty simple: If you have Internet access and an opinion about a book, you can be a book blogger. However, actually maintaining a book blog is much more complicated — our blogs are labors of love that require a lot of time, energy and devotion. For this edition of Weekly Geeks, I want to focus on the little things that make your blogging and/or reading life a bit easier. …Tell us about what makes your blog tick. Is there something specific that keeps you organized or inspired?

weekly-geeks-book-pileHowever the answers they seek — at least from me — are far less about physical or digital assistance; I need mental help *wink*

On one hand, my deviation here might stem from the fact that I do not describe myself as a “book blogger.” As a reader, bibliophile, accumulator, collector, researcher, I have many reasons to read books; as a person suffering from logorrhea, I naturally talk about what I read — and how what I read fits into or connects with my life, collections, work, other reading, etc. Anywhere I write/blog, no matter the subject, books and other publications pop into the conversations, even though I’ve never been dubbed “the book blogger” or had my column called “about books.”

On the other hand, it seems I’m always slightly tilting meme questions… So here goes more of the same.

Remaining organized and inspired as a reader who writes about books involves, for me, the very same challenges as it did before I was stuffing the tubes of the internet with words about books.

My organization, of which I admit a general lack of, still depends upon the traditional use of stacks. Not only the stacks of “to be read” books, which I think all readers have to some degree of toppling nature; but stacks of “to be blogged about.” I keep at least two stacks which assist my blogging progress.

One right at my desk, so that I cannot over look them (try as I might) because they will soon slide onto my keyboard.


Another, primarily library books so that they do not get lost in the milieu, usual sits near the sofa for reading; their very public placement is a reminder to read (and, typically required, renew) them before I accrue fines. (When it’s time to review a few, the whole stack is then moved to sit precariously atop of my pc’s case.)


Remaining inspired is not typically a problem; I am the sort of person who easily becomes obsessed — with the reading of, talking about, and further researching about what I’ve read. But what I and my blogging suffer from are what I call inertia issues

Bouts of reading do not wish to be interrupted by reviewing; bouts of reviewing do not like to be hampered by not having read anything new; bouts of research/reading in one area ignores others. These things, of which time and personality are both critical factors, can make for series of posts that skew my blogging heavily. Which is to say that new visitors to my blog who happen by during a period in which I’m heavily into one activity or interest — and by virtue of not sharing that interest — may leave quickly, not seeing their more shared interests lay, like layers of an onion, deeper within.

I do try to remember these possibilities and address them.

Using blog carnivals (such as — shameless plugs — the Book Reviews Blog carnival which I’m hosting on the 25th and the New Vintage Reviews carnival, which includes books, that I host monthly), helps remind me. Submission due dates are reminders that post must be written.

But primarily I keep an eye on my stacks. And they on me. The growth of all of my stacks — through their tumbling acts — nags. This creates a balance at the blog which does really exist within myself or my habits.

As my “to be reviewed” stack slips precariously towards my keystroking fingers, I try to avoid being annoyed at the disruption and take it as a cue that I’m more than a little behind in my reviewing. As the family sighs at having to operate around my stack of library books, I try not to let that upset the reader in me who wishes for more time to read, but acknowledge that, yes, I am a more than a little behind in my reading.

I’m always a little behind in my reading.


Weekly Geeks: The Experience Of Reading & Reviewing Books

weekly-geeks-book-pileThis week’s Weekly Geeks challenge is a response to author Shannon Hale’s post about evaluating and reviewing books; we were to respond to the questions Hale asked in one of three ways — but I’m just going to go ala cart.

Since Hale’s post was as much for readers as reviewers, I feel I should start with a bit of my basic book philosophy, that reading is an experience. As such, the book is as much a prisoner of the reader’s context — your context — as it is the author’s, and the time and place in which the work was written, edited, published, etc.

Even if a book is not, as Zaid says, a conversation — or if you only view a book as a one-sided conversation — the reading of it is the process by which the book becomes alive, useful, “on.” (An unread book is just an object, art in a closet, a sweater you were given at Christmas that you don’t like enough to wear, or have no place to wear — at least not yet. Perhaps you intend to read it, but until you do, there’s no real experience with it — other than the experience you had obtaining it.)

camper-girls-1910sReading, like any other experience, does not exist in a vacuum; you take stuff with you going in. Some of it is practical, but much of it is subjective & personal. Like a hiker heading out on the trail, you take along your knowledge, educated opinions, dreams, expectations, likes & dislikes — and your previous experiences. Are you familiar with the territory? If so, is it too familiar — boring and formulaic? If it’s new territory, is it full of exciting discoveries? Or is it overwhelming, not for the novice? Perhaps you were poorly lead by the guide? Or maybe you were the problem, ill-prepared, lazy, or otherwise not up to the challenge. If the failings were yours, should you try again — would you?

In any case, whatever you discovered during your experience, including knowledge about yourself, those are the things you discuss with others upon your return.

Are you reacting to any fears or insecurities?
What was it about the story that resonated?
Would you have loved this book as much five or ten years ago?
Will you continue loving it in the future?
Where are you in your life that this is the story you wanted and needed?

Answering these questions is a somewhat natural process; you are automatically sorting & sifting through these things when you read a book and think to yourself how your sister simply must read this book, or how your girlfriend would hate the heroine, or how your father would pick the science apart. You might not articulate these things as well as a reviewer does (or ought to do), but you are making the connections.

vintage-campersDepending upon who you are talking with, your tale may vary. When talking with those who have never been, you might describe the trail (plot) in greater detail. With those who have been, you can share those insider jokes & stories (spoilers and “you had to be there” moments). With those who are either planning on going or those who you sincerely believe must go, you tailor your tale to arouse their interest without ruining their own discoveries (you can share those “had to be there” moments after they’ve been there). Conversely, if you hated the trip, or had places where you struggled, you share those accordingly as warning. And for those with no interest whatsoever in the subject, you will simply comment what a great (or poor) trip you had — and should they politely ask questions, you will steer your comments towards things your companion can relate to.

Reviewing isn’t that much different — but it does add another layer, another experience.

A book selected (or assigned) for review will have those additional contextual constructs affecting the experience. You know you will be having conversation, regardless of your impressions of the book — and let’s face it, not every book you read is necessarily one you care enough to talk about. Why? Because maybe it failed to show you any magnificent views. Maybe it didn’t ignite a memory, provoke an idea, force a feeling, or jog an interest. Maybe it didn’t even offend you enough to warrant warning others. It was, overall, a rather unremarkable experience — but one you must record nevertheless.

(In the past decade of reviewing online, I’ve had my share of those! Quickly, I learned not to accept books or items I would otherwise have no interest in; if I wouldn’t buy it or at least want to buy it, I won’t take it for free — the price paid for having to write a review full of “I don’t usually read” and disclaimers regarding my own lack of knowledge, experience or interest is even less fun than reading a book for which I have little knowledge, experience, or interest.)

As I myself never use rating systems for anything in life, I do not use them with continuing the book’s conversation. (When forced to use them at sites like Amazon, I’m continually chafing at the lack of options — Why no zero rating, no 3.5 stars? There’s never been a rating system that really works for me.) This is part of my personality, as subjective as anything else in the experience of reading and discussing books.

For me, the primary mandate of reviews is honesty: I’m very aware of my obligation as a reviewer. I may not know all of my audience (blog readers) as well as I do my circle of family & friends, so I face a different circumstance in conversing. Using the hiker analogy again, I must write either a review of the hiking spot for a general audience of hiking enthusiasts (taking into account the varying levels of experience, but focused on the trail), or I must write, as I do here at Kitsch Slapped, for an audience that is more interested in what I opine — keeping in mind that what I have to say about my discoveries and experiences is at least equal to what I am writing about.

In either case, I must be fair to disclose not only what I liked &/or didn’t like, but why — and what things are purely subjective to me & my experience including my personal tastes, my failings — my penchants and peccadillos.

camp-merry-meeting-1920sAnd I, like the authors themselves, must accept that even though we are all part of the same group of bookish explorers taking in the same views, we will have different experiences, different tastes, and different reviews.

Images via FuzzyLizzie’s vintage hiking & camping gallery.

Weekly Geeks: One Title, Multiple Copies

This week’s Weekly Geek is about a collection of books of one particular title:

[T]ell us, do you have a collection, (or are you starting a collection,) of one particular book title? If so, what’s your story? Why that book, and how many do you have, and what editions are they? Share pictures and give us all the details.

It will probably not surprise anyone who knows me & my “serendipitous path to discoveries” that any multiple copies of books are unintentional. Did I say “any” copies? I meant many copies…

duplicate-book-finds See, the problem with just letting universe steer your discoveries, is that you don’t exactly have a shopping list.

And you don’t exactly head into Barnes & Nobel with much of an agenda — at least not as often as you stroll through used book stores, thrift shops, rummage sales, flea markets, even curbside boxes on trash days, touching & paging through as much dust (and sometimes mold & mildew) as you do paper, on your way to discovery…

And when you trust universe to lead you, you buy it when you can afford it. Even if — especially if — it’s a box of books at an auction.

Online serendipity aside (for online discoveries & purchases tend to send me to my shelves to double check before I click & buy), all of this means purchasing duplicates or multiples of books is imminent. (Hubby has already documented the details of some of the titles, shown in this photo, at his book blog.) As for why we retain ownership of redundant titles, same prints even, when we are small-time sellers of collectibles who could easily sell them off, is probably more fanciful than how we’ve come to own them.

Simply put, I envision duo review opportunities — or dueling reviews, if you will, in which hubby and I begin reading the same book at the same time and then publish our reviews (rather) simultaneously. Of course, this doesn’t explain those cases in which we have three or more copies of the same book…

I believe that would come down to a reluctance to upset universe by refusing the multiple gifts it has given; re-gifting or selling of gifts given by the book gods seems too tacky — I wouldn’t want to risk peeving them, resulting in them stopping pointing the way to books.

But hubby would likely put this all down to sheer laziness.

However, it should be noted that hubby also mocks my suggestion of book review duels. And he says I mistake “greed” for “serendipity.” Clearly he is wrong about all of this. *wink*

And he must know it too; because he’d never suggest we catalog all our books or become more logical & organized in our approach to buying books, like having lists. We can’t; we don’t know everything that’s out there, so how can we possibly know exactly what we’re looking for?

If multiple copies are the burden we and our sagging bookshelves must bear for our love of books, we accept it. Happily.

Weekly Geek: Why Haven’t I Read This Yet?

I’m leaving early tomorrow morning for the weekend, and even though I had Friday’s post scheduled, when I spotted this week’s Weekly Geek question, “Why Haven’t I Read This Yet?”, it brought to mind at least one of the nagging questions raised by Gabriel Zaid in So Many Books that I just had to eek out a little time to answer it.

While Ruth at Weekly Geeks asked us to talk about a book (or books) we have been meaning to read (What is it? How long have you wanted to read it? And, why haven’t you read it yet?), my problem is far more ah, chronic than that.

In fact, I have a lovely stack of books here, desk-side, to review, read, and generally get lost in — and other stacks & sagging bookshelves for the same and other reasons.

I think sometimes my desire to own, the reality of time to read, and the love of books have given me a false sense of security when I buy books. It’s as if when I grab a book, clutch it to my bosom, and greedily pay for it, I loose all sense of reality… I cling to the fantasy of Someday.

Like all the boxes of ‘craft crap,’ I hold on to books for the great Someday when I will have time on my hands…

On one hand, this probably speaks quite a bit about of my precariously close to hoarding personality; on the other, I don’t think I’m that unique in my pursuits of piles of books.

* My eyes are bigger than my stomach — my appetite for reading greatly surpasses my time for reading.

* As a collector, writer & researcher, having my own library full of as of yet undiscovered information is a gift indeed. And, it may sound crazy, but sometimes I’m pretty sure I believe that just by owning books, by having them near, through some law of physics I will absorb all the knowledge, all the stories, all the lore & wisdom via osmosis.

* I believe in the serendipity of discovering books and the universe has blessed me with many finds; so I believe that universe will also serendipitously deliver the time to read the books (have the conversations) when I need to do so.

But mainly, I just don’t believe as Gabriel Zaid does, that “almost all books are obsolete from the moment they’re written, if not before.” I believe the opposite, actually, even though I mainly read non-fiction.

I find books from a time period often are the most accurate snapshots of the times in which they were written &/or published. Facts may be outdated, but passion & pursuit of the facts are never really outdated… Reading old books, out of print books, is to renew old conversations, illuminating so-called “current” conversations with corrections about assumptions, reminders of history lessons, and sometimes, a wisdom that’s too long been ignored or just plain forgotten. Sometimes, there’s just plain nostalgia. Maybe they are so quaint it’s funny. But saving old books, renewing previous conversations, remembering that this “now” we think is so important will also pass, is vital in my world view.

If it doesn’t matter to me how much time has passed between when the book is written & when the book is read, how can it matter how much time passes between when you bought a book & when you read it?

Basing your reading on “new only” or some inventory mantra of “first in first out” is an anathema to me. It conveys a materialistic aspect, diminishing books to temporality, objects limited to a short time of significance. As a collector, as a researcher, and as a reader I completely disagree.

And I have the stacks of as of yet unread books to prove it.